Resource Letter:
For Judges and Attorneys Handling Child Protective Services Cases
April 28, 2020
Resources to Support Educational Success for Students in Foster Care
During COVID-19
In response to the State’s action to physically close schools in March to prevent the spread of COVID-19, school districts throughout Texas have rapidly adapted and established virtual learning environments and other alternative educational delivery methods to ensure continued education for students. On April 17, 2020, Governor Greg Abbott announced that schools will remain closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. Education can provide continuity and a positive outlet for students in foster care, even if physical school locations are closed. Please read below for information about various educational resources and related assistance. Additional information is available from the Texas Education Agency (TEA) about serving students in foster care during the pandemic.

Virtual Learning and Other Methods of Instruction
In the wake of the global pandemic, schools in the U.S. and in Texas have worked tirelessly to provide their students with continued instruction for the remainder of the school year. TEA has created the Texas Home Learning webpage to provide assistance with lesson plans for Pre-K to 12th grade for school districts and parents. The Texas Public Charter Schools Association (TPCSA) has distance learning materials and resources available to its member schools. Caregivers and child advocates should refer to their school website for information regarding education and other services being provided to its students.

Many Texans have limited access to technology and the internet. In response, school districts and various service providers have worked to increase accessibility for students. A list of cable, internet, and phone providers who are providing free or low-cost access to services for students is posted on the Texas Cable Association website. Additionally, some school districts are offering mobile hot spots and access to tablets or computers. Please contact the student’s school to determine if these options are available for your student.

Students in foster care are categorically eligible for free school meals. In collaboration with schools throughout Texas, TEA has provided an easy-to-use meal facility locator tool for caregivers to find meal pick-up locations, as well as the days and times when meals will be served for children during school closures.

Enrollment During Closures
In the event that a school transfer is necessary, child welfare agencies and schools must comply with federal and state laws regarding the prompt enrollment of a student in foster care and transfer of their records to their new school.  Foster Care Liaisons can assist with the withdrawal, records transfer, and enrollment processes for students who are changing schools. If the student receives special education services or accommodations or is in need of an evaluation, the student’s parent, caregiver, advocate, or attorney should verify that the new school has received a copy of the student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or has received a request for an evaluation. Foster Care Liaison contact information is maintained on the TEA AskTed website. Additionally, DFPS has Education Specialists who are available to troubleshoot student specific issues in each DFPS region.

Special Education
The duty to identify, locate, and evaluate children who have or may be suspected of having a disability and need for special education is ongoing, and all related statutory deadlines are still in effect. Schools that establish virtual learning environments or other alternative educational delivery methods during physical school closures must continue to provide special education and related services in accordance with each student’s IEP.

If there are any services, accommodations, and modifications that cannot be provided to the student in accordance with their IEP during this time, the student’s Admission, Review, and Dismissal (ARD) Committee must determine which services can be provided to meet the student’s needs. The student’s ARD Committee will also decide whether there is need for compensatory services to address delays or regression caused by any period of loss of services, accommodations, and modifications in the child’s IEP once school resumes in-person classes.

For additional information about special education and special student populations, please refer to TEA’s COVID-19 Support web page . Additionally, Disability Rights Texas has developed a resources web page .

School Based Mental Health
Students in foster care may be experiencing an additional sense of trauma, grief, and loss as a response to the school closures, social isolation, and break from routine. TEA guidance on mental and behavioral health resources is available online.

Higher Education
Many Texas colleges, universities, and technical and vocational programs have physically closed their buildings and housing for the remainder of the academic school year and are providing class instruction virtually. Such closures may significantly impact foster care alumni who may rely on university housing, work study programs, and meal plans. In response, Texas public colleges and universities have offered emergency housing and dining services to students who would otherwise be homeless during these closures. Foster care alumni in need of assistance should contact the institution’s Foster Care Liaison .

Youth seeking non-traditional higher education or training, or access and referrals to community resources through foster youth transition centers may access services remotely at this time.

Foster care alumni experiencing issues with homelessness, unemployment, or other issues due to COVID-19 should contact their Preparation for Adult Living (PAL) case manager or caseworker for assistance. The Texas Foster Youth Justice Project also has a COVID-19 Resources web page available for foster care alumni.
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For a complete list of Jurist in Residence Letters, please visit the Children's Commission webpage . Information provided by the Children’s Commission should not be read as a commentary by the Supreme Court of Texas or any other court. The Children’s Commission website is not equipped to facilitate dialogue or conversation about matters related to the information in this communique. For more information about the Children’s Commission, please visit our website .